Today In 1969 – The FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List

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On January 8, 1969, the Citizens Bank and Trust Company of Maryland, Fort Washington Branch, was robbed by a man who escaped in a maroon Cadillac. Two of the victim tellers identified the robber as Billie Austin Bryant, for they remembered him as a customer of the bank prior to his conviction for bank robbery in 1968.

The FBI was immediately notified of this robbery and of the tentative identification of Bryant as the robber. Bryant’s wife was know to reside in an apartment in the Southeast Washington, D.C., area. Therefore, three FBI Agents proceeded to the vicinity of her residence to determine whether the maroon automobile had been seen in the area.

After determining that the Cadillac was not in the vicinity, the Agents decided to advise Bryant’s wife of the robbery in case Bryant tried to contact her. Unwittingly, the Agents passed Bryant’s wife descending the stairway as they proceeded to her apartment.

In response to a knock by one of the Agents, the door of the apartment was partly opened by a man who stated that Mrs. Bryant was not home. The Agents identified themselves and asked this individual if they could come in and talk to him. The man stated that since it was not his apartment he could not invite anyone inside. At this point, the individual began firing a gun point blank at the three Agents. After a quick succession of shots, he slammed the door. Two of the Agents were struck by the shots, and the third fired two shots into the closing door.

The third Agent immediately returned to the FBI car and radioed for assistance. The two wounded Agents, Edwin R. Woodriffe and Anthony Palmisano, were rushed by ambulance to a nearby hospital where they were pronounced dead on arrival.

An intensive search of the surrounding area was conducted by the FBI, the Maryland State Police, the Prince George’s County Police, the Prince George’s Sheriff’s Office, and the Metropolitan Police Department in an effort to apprehend Bryant. The manhunt by hundreds of FBI Agents and local officers included helicopters, dogs, and numerous roadblocks.

On January 8, 1969, warrants were issued charging Bryant with robbing the Citizens Bank and Trust Company of Maryland, Fort Washington Branch, and with killing the two FBI Agents. On the same date Bryant was placed on the FBI’s list of “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives.”

At approximately 6:50 p.m., on January 8, 1969, a call was received at the Metropolitan Police Department from an alert citizen in an apartment house on Mississippi Avenue, S.E., Washington, D.C. This citizen reported he had heard noises in the attic above his apartment. He had heard about the FBI Agents being shot, and, since the shooting had happened in the immediate vicinity, he was suspicious of the noises.

A detective from the robbery squad of the Metropolitan Police Department responded to the call. After the detective announced his identity, a voice responded from the attic identifying himself as Billy Bryant. Bryant stated that he had climbed into the attic and the door had jammed, trapping him.

Bryant was placed under arrest and taken to the homicide squad of the Metropolitan Police Department. He furnished a signed statement admitting the shooting of the two FBI Agents, but added that it was in self-defense. His time on the Top 10 list remains the shortest of any fugitive – 2 hours.


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